The Danger of Reading Only the Abstract

My final comment [in Chapter 1] takes the form of a warning. Simply stated, do not read an abstract and then think that you understand the study well enough to forego reading the entire article. As was stated earlier, an abstract gives you a thumbnail sketch of a study, thus allowing you to decide whether the article fits into your area of interest. If it does not, then you rightfully can move on. On the other hand, if an abstract makes it appear that the study is, in fact, consistent with your interests, you need to then read the entire article for two reasons. First, the results summarized in the Abstract may not coincide with the information that appears in the Results section of the full article. Second, you cannot properly evaluate the quality of the results--even if they are consistently presented in the Abstract, Results, and Discussion sections of the article--without coming to understand who or what was measured, how measurements were taken, and what kinds of statistical procedures were applied.

If you read an abstract (but nothing else in the article) and then utilize the abstract's information to bolster your existing knowledge or guide your own research projects, you potentially harm yourself, because the findings reported in some abstracts are simply not true. To be able to tell whether or not an abstract can be trusted, you must read the full article.


(From Chapter 1 of the 6th edition, pp. 16-17)

Copyright © 2012

Schuyler W. Huck
All rights reserved.

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